Motiga is a relatively small independent publisher, but they have one of the largest presences at PAX East this year. Riding high on a new partnership with Microsoft, they have every reason to show off a little.
At last week's Game Developers Conference, Microsoft announced that it will be partnering with studios to lower the barriers between platforms, letting console and PC gamers play together at last. As long as you're running Windows 10—whether on a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or Xbox One—you’ll be able to take advantage.
Motiga's Gigantic will be one of the first games to benefit from this feature. We sat down with the company's Senior VP of Publishing, David Reid, to talk about the Gigantic and what Motiga's partnership with Microsoft means for the future of gaming.
Can you tell me about Motiga and your role there?
Motiga is an independent developer based in Bellevue, Washington. It was founded in 2010, and about 2 years later we got started on the game that is now Gigantic. What makes Motiga a little different from other independent studios is that we’re largely filled with veterans. While Gigantic is our first game, a lot of our people have worked on a bunch of different games—some even together—before coming here.
The idea for Motiga, on some level, has always been to build the next great competitive online game, something that was really a lot of fun but could also be very competitive.
What do I do? I run the publishing department—marketing, sales, PR.
How about Gigantic—what is it?
Gigantic is a team-based action game—a competitively multiplayer game. There are five players on each side that go into a match, and a match will last about 15–20 minutes.
A lot of what you see in Gigantic will seem familiar if you play other genres. If you are a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) player, you’ll see aspects of that in terms of being 5v5, different roles for different players. If you’re a shooter player, you’ll see that aiming and precision matters a lot more. If you are an RPG player you’ll notice that we have some characters who have a lot of interesting skill interactions.
The basic idea here is that if you’re a gamer from any of a wide range of backgrounds, you’ll find a hero that makes sense to you in Gigantic. The thing that makes Gigantic different from everything else is what we call the Guardians—five-story monsters that have console boss mechanics. Each side has a Guardian and your goal for the match is to slay the other Guardian while protecting your own.
Part of what makes Gigantic a particularly fun competitive game is that matches always tend to be pretty close. Because a Guardian can only withstand three “wounds” before it dies, it’s not like a lot of other competitive games where in the first minute you have a pretty good idea of how the match is going to go. We have furious rallies happening all the time, there are ways for teams to come back from being two wounds down and still win and it makes for a much more exciting moment-to-moment experience.
It seems like Motiga is emphasizing a strong relationship with the community. Can you talk about that decision?
We want to have a competitive game and we want it to be a community of people who can be competitive without being jerks. There’s a fairly large amount of toxicity in a lot of online gaming communities. We’ve made a game where you see the name Gigantic in that funny font we have and you hopefully begin from a space that’s different from other games. This is intended to be a much more welcoming game.
A lot of the things that have made some of these online games toxic is the rigid gameplay, the very steep learning curve of learning how master certain things, we’ve tried to eliminate that and make the game much more approachable from that perspective.
Gigantic has always been community-focused. It’s a reflection of how the industry itself has changed recently. In the world of online games it’s about starting with a core and radiating out from there. You see that approach here, as a lot of the people we’ve brought to these events are actually community members that we have flown out to be coaches. One of the secrets you learn is that no developer can love a game as much a gamer can. If you want to build a game and a community around that sense of joy, competition, and fun, then the gamers themselves are the best people to do that.
I, of course, can say whatever I want to in order to try to sell it well, but it’s that unfiltered passion you get from people that works best. So we’ve empowered this community to do good things for us.
How will matchmaking work? Is there going to be a system in place so newbies don't get overwhelmed by veterans?
In fact, our partnership with Microsoft allows us to use the TrueSkill methodology and algorithms they have—initially on Xbox but bringing it to Windows gaming as well.
It’s something that will get better refined and smarter as an algorithm as more and more people play the game. This is absolutely intention, right now as we talk to our community members we have to tell them not to steamroll the noobs. Ultimately, being part of a competitive game is making sure that matchmaking works really, really well.
Speaking of the Windows announcement, can you tell me a little bit about how that started?
It’s really exciting stuff. For starters, we’ve been looking at Gigantic as the next great competitive online game, but what does that mean? What are some new places some new things to try out? One of those things is that we got the sense that this could be a successful console title and shortly after the announcement in July those conversations got fairly serious with a couple different companies. At the same time, we were having a discussion with Microsoft about Xbox, we were also learning a lot more about Windows 10 and on both sides we kind of realized the Windows 10 timing and the Gigantic timing are looking pretty good together, this could be a really good moment for both companies.
With all the great stuff Microsoft has in its own portfolio, it doesn’t have anything quite like this, they don’t have anything that matches up with the competitive online space in the same way that Gigantic does. That’s where the partnership really began. Windows 10 is really ready to make PC gaming a stronger place from the Microsoft perspective rather than perhaps previous Windows versions have. At the same time they have the Xbox, we’ve got a game that feels like it can play well on both systems, and so then the discussion began of how do we want this partnership to function.
Cross-platform multiplayer is a pretty big deal. How is it going to work in Gigantic?
Cross-platform play is a big deal to Microsoft. Consumers are far more used to cloud-based systems and it kinda doesn’t matter where they tunnel in from, so long as they have access to their information. That’s not exactly the case with a lot of gaming platforms. With us and with Microsoft it’s actually really clean. The idea that I’m going to have one Gigantic account. I can activate that account from a Windows 10 PC or Xbox One—my own, my friends, it doesn’t matter—and my stuff is going to be there.
So how do people play together? Naturally, part of what happens here when you have a competitive game is that you want to have the largest group of people playing possible. We didn’t want to have two different communities. We wanted to see if we could make this work. Where people can play against each other regardless whether they have a Windows 10 PC or Xbox One.
There are some very real differences when it comes to people playing with a mouse and controller compared to a console controller. We’re getting a lot of questions about console gamers getting aim assist and that’s not fair. One of things we talked to Microsoft and announced is that all of our cross-platform play is going to be opt-in. You won’t ever be paired with someone on the other platform without explicitly agreeing to it.
Are you going to need Windows 10 to play Gigantic?
That’s the initial focus. The way Microsoft will say it is that you need a Windows 10 device, which includes Xbox One. In the alpha right now you don’t need Windows 10, but you will and we’ll work with the community to make sure that migration happens in a smooth way.
I think Microsoft got a lot of feedback from gamers who weren’t very happy with Windows 8 and 8.1 and were reasonably happy with Windows 7. There’s a lot of change that’s going to happen [with Windows 10] that’s going to get that spirit of things back together. I wouldn’t expect everyone to be like, “Yay, I can’t wait to upgrade!” But it is a good product, it is getting things better on the gaming side, it is free, and now there are good games to play on it.